Everyone knows about the Tree at Rockafeller Center, and everyone should see it. Ditto for all of the store windows on Fifth Avenue. You’re going to hear about the best cocktail in town too…the Fever Tree Porch at Bryant Park.
Trying to squeeze my way back on to the street, away from the crowds at Bryant Park, I heard a little voice say, “Mom, can I have a Rolex?” It was at once hilarious ( no kid, you cannot have a Rolex, but here’s a free candy cane), and heartbreaking.
As an adult, I’ve come to love the spirit of Christmas; the gathering with friends and family. The beauty of decorations, and care put into them. I love taking time to pause and to donate to my regular charities. It’s easy to forget that for a lot of adults they never lose the I-want spoiled consumerism that goes hand in hand with the season. The mystery of advent is lost on so many.
It’s easy to understand how the beautiful gift of hope; light in the darkness goes hand in hand with the human condition of suffering. The crowds on Canal street bent over sorting through knock off bags ceremoniously laid out on garbage bags, and bargaining in all of the souvenir stores for the same scarves, costume jewelry is the underbelly of all of the sparkle. Go for a look but don’t mark it as part of your Christmas in New York City. Mark it as a way to remind yourself of how fortunate you are, and that really, very few of us have true need at Christmas. Let Canal street and the packed shops remind you to give this Christmas season.
Once you’ve reminded yourself how fortunate you are, how badly the planet needs you not to consume, get on with enjoying the spirit of the sparkle.
Speaking of sparkle, the Saks light display was a complete surprise. I mean, was my head under a rock when I planned our Chritsmas in New York Extravaganza? It wasn’t on the books. And that’s one of the reasons why I would absolutely recommend Free Tours by Foot. Our tour guide was John, and he was five stars. Although the tour cost a mere $3.00 (which was actually donation to a toy drive), prepare to leave a big, fat tip at the end of the tour because you’re going to be that impressed.
Bryant Park Winter Village is just what it is – a Christmas market. If you’re into hand-crafted unique gifts, it’s a great place to shop. Keep in mind you’ll be on the equivalent of a conveyer belt of people, jostling just to take a step.
What I loved most about the park was that you could skate for free (if you brought your own skates), and they squeezed the Fever Tree Porch into the corner of 40th Street and Avenue of the Americas/6th Ave. It’s a little respite in the middle of the NYC madness. It took less than ten minutes to be seated (table for five), and the atmosphere was cozy. Picture a fully stocked bar with two warm bonfires out front for the standing room only folks, and outdoor heaters for those of us who needed a minute off our feet and a seat at a table. I recommend the Hot Penicillin (cider with whiskey, lemon and honey), and the chili. Scroll down and I’ll give you the recipe.
Oh, plan your bathroom route too. Most places have at least a 30 minute wait for the toilets. Stay hydrated and cocktail wisely my friends.
Map everything in advance. It doesn’t take a genius to map the grid system in uptown, but it takes a little more Lewis-and-Clarking to get around old downtown. The subway in New York was designed for you to desire to get quickly from A to B. The NYC Subway app comes in handy for delays and closures. In the summer if it’s the sweltering heat underground that makes you want o surface, at Christmas time, it’s surely the juried musicians. They’re the worst gawd-awful musicians I’ve ever heard. It’s like the musicians stole all of the grit of the Grinch at his grinchiest, and force it upon you like military orders. Run.
Despite the terrible noise in the subway, New York City at Christmas time is beautiful. The compact layout all decked out in lights is beautiful. Everything twinkles and for the most part, everyone there (tourists) is in a good mood.
Central Park is always a highlight, and the little zoo is no exception with their outdoor exhibits during the holidays. It was a great Sunday morning start, and included a 4D Polar Express showing. Definitely worth checking out to make you feel like a kid again.
And speaking of feeling like a kid again, who really doesn’t enjoy a giant toy store filled with amazing hands-on displays? I hit FAO Schwarzin the evening. I was only the third person in line to get in. Just a little tip, the line up to get in is at the rear of the Christmas Tree at Rockafeller Center, and a great way to get close to the tree without the crowds…during the later evening anyway.
Yes I did play the giant piano, and scooted around the store like a giant kid until I was sweaty and tired, and ready to head out onto the street, whining that I needed a drink of water. What you need to do is make sure you have metro pass fully loaded to zip around the city. What you’re also going to need is at least one pair of really, really, really comfortable shoes. Cocktail stops are a must, and don’t plan on going anywhere for lunch or dinner without reservations. In fact, the more popular spots require planning up to three months ahead of time. Do your restaurant research. I’m also a fan of ordering in after a looooooong day of touristing so I can eat all tucked in, freshly showered, and ready to snuggle in for a dreamy sleep.
Christmas has not always been a merry time for me. Like anyone else, I’ve experienced heartbreak, grief and loads of stress during the holidays. But not this year. And so I’m enjoying it without reserve. The pendulum of life keeps swinging, and we all take a turn at the ups and downs. If you are having an up and you love Christmas, I highly recommend New York as a destination. I took four days and wished I had a fifth to finish off my list of must-see’s-and-do’s. Which is a blessing in disguise because now I must return again another year.